Monday, May 14, 2007

10 years on

Everyone else is busy summing up the last 10 years of Blair. Let's have a go.

Labour's achievements over the past 10 years are extraordinary: Northern Ireland, a national minimum wage, a nationwide ban on smoking indoors, devolved power to Mayors and Scotland/Wales/NI, gay equality and civil parsnips, the EU convention on Human Rights, Bank of England independence with consistent economic stability / growth, record investment in public services, some reform of the House of Lords..

The buts are Iraq, constant attacks on and weakening of civil liberties, a poor record on climate change, countless bungled IT projects, decreased social mobility, the increase in faith schools and other undesirable mixing of religion and state, the allegations of cash-for-honours and the dropping of that Saudi investigation..

Expansive lists for both 'good' and 'bad'. But then a lot changes in 10 years: the domain '' wasn't registered until 10 years this September.

More than all the details: Labour has shifted the political centre of gravity such that never again can the Tories (or anybody else) be the repressive, pessimistic, nationalistic force for evil they once were. Blair was the first post-war Prime Minister not seeming to long for a mythical 1950s sobriety and propriety. He embraced the 21st century, a product of our times. They say his achievements can be summed up in one word: Cameron.

I grew up under this government, a Labour government, a progressive government - I fear it will shape my expectations and imagination for years to come.

As Thatcher before him, Blair is the best statesman of his generation and, unusually, was empowered to reach some of that potential. I won't miss the spin, the doomed international ventures and the unanswered questions but I'll admit it: I'll miss him.

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